Upgrade your iMac 20″ or iMac 24″ aluminum 2007, 2008 & 2009 to 1.5 or 2TB Hard Drive – DIY Guide


Mac Logo The following guide provides step by step instructions on how you can disassemble and upgrade your Apple iMac 20″ or iMac 24″ (aluminum, models 2007, 2008 and 2009) to 1 TB, 1.5 TB or even 2TB (terrabyte) hard drive and 4 GB RAM (and 8 GB RAM for iMac 2009 models only) – all by yourself, and save some serious money (I’ve personally saved over US $1,000 upgrading my iMac 24″ aluminum by myself), however you will need some background in electronics and relevant experience to make it happen…


You WILL need some basic technical knowledge to upgrade your iMac hard drive by yourself – upgrading hard drive is not user serviceable part and it might void your Apple warranty. Therefore, I cannot be responsible for any damages or losses you’ll potentially incur from following this guide – proceed at your own risk!

Desire for the Top of the Line iMac 24″ Aluminum (2007, 2008 and 2009) for Least the Money $$

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It all started in Oct-2007 – I wanted a brand new iMac 24″ Aluminum with the 2.8 GHz Core2Duo Extreme CPU, max. memory (4 GB) and lots of internal hard drive capacity (1 TB – at the time), however ordering a custom built model with such features through Apple’s web site was costing an arm and a leg (US $3,449 to be exact in Nov-2007), so I’ve decided to take a DIY approach, also taking into consideration my electronics background.

I’ve ended up ordering iMac 24″ AL (2007) with 1 GB RAM, 320 GB HDD and 2.8 GHz Core2Duo Extreme CPU (approx. US $2,049 – the Extreme CPU was the only custom upgrade to my order). Then I’ve ordered 2 modules x 2 GB RAM (total 4 GB, costing me approx. US $140) and 1 TB hard drive (costing me approx US $310). My total cost for the machine and parts was ~ US $2,499 – saving approx. US $950 than ordering machine with such configuration through Apple (US $3,499 retail). In addition, after the upgrade I’ve sold the remaining parts – 1 GB RAM module and 320 GB hard drive through eBay, hence my saving on my new iMac reached over US $ 1,000 US. Cool, eh?

RAM upgrade was a breeze, just opened up the memory bay slot, plugged in the new modules and closed it up! However, upgrading hard drive proved to be somewhat challenging, hence I wanted to share my experience with the Mac community. Good thing is that I was taking photos as I’ve went along with the upgrade. The result is the following upgrade guide.

Danny, 5. November 2007.

Updated message: Since my original experience, I’ve replaced my iMac 2007 with a newer iMac 2008 and have had numerous iMac upgrade experience with all three models 2007, 2008 and 2009. This guide applies to all three models as all three models are internally 98% the same.

I would like to thank all readers for their support and over 140 useful reader comments below.

Danny, April 2009.

Updated message: It is now possible to upgrade your iMac to 2TB hard drive using the guide below! I would like to thank all readers for their support and over 220 useful comments to this article!

Danny, July 2009.

Aritcle revisions: Jan-May-Oct-2008. Jan-Mar-Apr-July-2009.

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What You’ll Need

1) Apple iMac 20″ or iMac 24″ Aluminum

(2007 models – MA876LL, MA877LL or MA878LL or 2008 models – MB323LL, MB324LL, MB325LL, as well as 2009 models MB417LL/A, MB418LL/A, MB419LL/A, MB420LL/A): If you purchase your iMac online you can save additionally on the sales tax, and most of the retailers offer some sort of rebate as well. The configuration you’re looking for is with 250 GB hard drive for 20″ model or 320 GB hard drive for 24″ model (the lowest drive capacity available, because you’ll anyhow upgrade the hard drive to 1 TB or 1.5 TB.

You might choose from one of the following iMac 20″ and iMac 24″ aluminum 2008 and 2009 models you’d like to upgrade with 1 TB, 1.5 TB or 2 TB hard drive:

20in iMac 2008 24in iMac 2008 20in iMac 2009 24in iMac 2009

Save up to $100 on a New Mac and Printer! (Apple store special)

Also make sure to check out Apple’s refurbished deals, from time to time (you just need to keep looking as offers change weekly) they’ll have iMac AL 20″ and 24″ at bargain prices (e.g. iMac AL 20″ for about US $850 and iMac AL 24″ for about US $1200 – info spring 2009):

Apple Store Save big on Apple-certified refurbished Macs (Apple store special)

2) 1 TB, 1.5 TB or 2 TB (terabyte) SATA II, 3.5″ hard drive

In my original iMac 2007 upgrade in Nov-2007 I’ve purchased a Hitachi 1 TB drive A7K1000 (data sheet from Hitachi), primarily because of 32 MB cache memory, SATA II interface having 3 Gbit/sec. throughput, and also due to its long-lasting life and reliability – Hitachi extending 5 year warranty and advertising 1.2 million hours average time before failure (choose a good drive – don’t you just hate when the drive dies on you and you lose all your data!). I’ve owned this hard drive for more than a year and I was really happy with it. The average running temperature was about 57C (135F), which is within Hitachi’s standard operating parameters – up to 60C – 140F.

Hard drives Apple installs in iMacs are Western Digital, you are also well set purchasing one of WD’s 1 TB drives.

Update 1: Some of our readers have reported that their 1 TB WD Black and 1 TB Seagate hard drives are not as quiet as they’ve hoped for.

Update 2: Since my original upgrade, I’ve replaced my machine with iMac 2008 and I have upgraded my new machine with Seagate Barracuda 1.5 TB drive (32 MB cache). I’m very satisfied with this drive as well (owning it for several months now) – it has a great performance, it is very quiet and the average running temperature is about 58C (136F).

Update 3: Some of our readers have reported that Seagate 1.5 TB is very quiet in their machines as well. (Apr-2009)

Update 4: It is now possible to upgrade your iMac to 2 TB hard drive with Seagate Barracuda 2.0 TB or WD Green 2.0 TB! (July-2009)

The appropriate 1 TB, 1.5 TB and 2 TB SATA hard drives going into your iMac are the following:

Highly Recommended
Best Buy for your iMac upgrade is Seagate 1.5 TB drive
Cost vs Storage Capacity, Performance and Noise

NEW – 2.0 TB hard drive upgrade – you can now upgrade your iMac to 2.0 TB hard drive following the procedure described in this article! The 2.0 TB hard drive you need is Seagate Barracuda 2TB (ST32000542AS) for the best peformance or WD Green 2.0 TB also having a good performance, but rather less expensive at this point in time (July-2009).If the upgrade cost is you major concern, you also might consider going with a really affordable Seagate 1.5 TB (ST31500341AS) – the best buy for your money performance vs noise!

Update 1: Our readers have sent us confirmations on successful iMac aluminum upgrade to Seagate 1.5 GB hard drive — check out the comments at the end of the page (thank you Doug, Oct-2008)!

Update 2: I’ve upgraded my new iMac 2008 with 1.5 TB hard drive in Dec-2008 and all went smoothly!

Update 3: I’ve upgraded my friend’s iMac 2009 wtih 1.5 TB hard drive in Mar-2009, layout of the computer inside is identical with the previous models.

Update 4: After a long experience in upgrading iMacs (2007, 2008 and 2009) with new hard drives, it seems that 1.5 TB Seagate Barracuda is currently the best buy for your money vs storage space, performance and noise! (update July-2009)

Your choice of recommended 2 TB drives is as follows:

Top 2TB performance Best value for 2TB

Your choice of recommended 1 TB drives is as follows:

Highly recomm. Recommended Recommended Very quiet
Once You Know, You Newegg Newegg.com specials on hard drives, internal and external
(also a great source for an external hard drive for your Time Machine backups)

3) Torx screwdrivers: You’ll need several specialized TORX screwdrivers, size T6 and T8 (these screwdrivers are the same type used to work with mobile phones).

Durston Mini Screwdriver Set, Torx, ESD, T4-T10, Ergo, 7 Pc

Torx screwdriversTorx screwdrivers

4) Kitchen \ bathroom hook suction cups: In order to open your iMac AL, you’ll need to take the glass cover off the display. The glass cover is held in place only by several magnets — in order to remove it you’ll need a specialized suction cup handle:

Heavy-Duty Dual Head Aluminum Suction Cup Handle – 180 LB Capacity

However if you don’t own such a fancy tool, several kitchen \ bathroom hook suction cups will do the trick instead (as in my case ๐Ÿ™‚ Just make sure they’re larger cups – at least 1 to 2 inches in diameter.

Suction Cup with Hook

Upgrade Guide – Step-by-Step Instructions with Photos

Applicable to iMac 2007, 2008 and 2009 models (both 20 and 24 inch):
– iMac 2007 models MA876LL/A, MA877LL/A, MA878LL/A
– iMac 2008 models MB323LL/A, MB324LL/A, MB325LL/A
– iMac 2009 models MB417LL/A, MB418LL/A, MB419LL/A, MB420LL/A

Step 1

Take a good look at your iMac AL – no screws (besides the memory upgrade slot) to be seen – how neat. :))))

In order to open your iMac, you will need to lift up the protective glass covering your display. The glass is held by several magnets only, so you just need to lift it up. Naturally you won’t be doing this with a screwdriver beneath the glass as you will damage the frame for sure. You need suction cups to lift up the glass.

If you don’t have specialized suction handle tools, using kitchen \ bathroom hook cups will do just fine. You will need about 4-6 of these, 1 to 2 inches in diameter.

Place the suction cups as shown on the photos. You might want to use a rubber string to tie up all suction cups (as shown on the photo) in order to have a grip at all suction cups simultaneously (otherwise you can try lifting up the suction cups with your bare hands ;).

Just LIFT UP the glass with the suction cups applying some moderate force. Make sure you do it carefully, as while pulling you might damage the glass!

Update 1:ย  Some of our readers have managed to get the glass off using only two larger suction cups placed at the two opposite corners of the glass (e.g. upper right and lower left corner), and pulling with hands only (please check out the comments at the end of the page).

Disassembly02 Disassembly02 Disassembly02
Disassembly02 Disassembly02

Once you lift up the glass, put it aside on a soft cloth. Finally we can see some screws in the frame! Use your Torx screwdrivers to take out all screws within the frame. Once you’re done, lift up the upper side of the frame only, but carefully, as in the upper mid section (behind the integrated iSight camera), there will be a wire you need to disconnect (as shown in photos).

Update 2: One of our readers reminds there are various length screws you will be taking out – what he suggests is using a piece of 8.5 x 11 (or A4) paper and taping the screws with scotch tape on the paper in the proper location such that it would remind you as where do they go back (thank you Doug)!

Update 3: Some readers have reported they’ve managed to make the upgrade without disconnecting the iSight cable – leave it plugged in and just flip over the front panel at your desk (thank you Claudio).

Step 2

Now make sure you take off the bracket from the memory slot at the bottom of the frame. If you don’t do this, you won’t be able to take off the frame.

Disassembly03 Disassembly03

Once you’ve put the memory slot bracket away, you may lift up the display frame entirely and set it aside.

Step 3

At this point we’ve unleashed the inside of your iMac AL – I truly admire Apple’s compact design ๐Ÿ™‚ The next thing we need to do is to detach iMac’s gorgeous display. Make sure you do this with utmost patience as you don’t want to be responsible for any dead pixels in the process!

The display is attached with three connectors. The first two you can find on the left and the right hand side of the bottom of the motherboard. Let’s start with the right-hand side connector first — this connector is locked in with a screw – thus you need to take it off and pull out the connector. Now we move to the left-hand side connector – just unplug it carefully. You might want to use a precision screwdriver to help you out in the process.

Update: One of our readers managed to upgrade the hard drive without removing the display – althought I’ve found it to be a lot easier to swap the hard drive with the display off.

Disassembly04 Disassembly04 Disassembly04

Step 4

The third connector attaching the display is located underneath the display, in the upper left corner of it. The next step is to lift up the display VERY carefully from its right hand side and up (as shown in the picture), and you need to detach the third cable – which is a power connector connecting it to the power board (smaller blue board shown in photos).

In my case, I had to take off the screw holding the power board in place first in order to be able to take off the connector. You might want a second pair of hands helping you with this step (holding the display in the air while you pull out the power connector beneath it)!

Update: One of our readers reminds there are two screws on the side of LCD you need to remove in this step in order to lift the screen (please read the comments section at the end of this page).

Disassembly05 Disassembly05 Disassembly05

Once you detach display power connector, you are ready to entirely lift off the display and place it aside. Make sure you put the display on a soft and safe place, away from the tools and work area (you don’t want to damage it)!

Step 5

Finally, we can see the hard drive placed in the middle upper section of iMac’s aluminum back frame. In order to take out the hard drive, you must first take off the temperature sensor from the drive (as shown in photos). The temperature sensor looks like an ordinary transistor component. Make sure not to bend its pins as it may damage it!

Disassembly06 Disassembly06 Disassembly06

Next, pull out the SATA and power connector from the hard drive (left hand side of the drive in my photos).

Step 6

For this step you will need to apply a bit of force – you need to push down the plastic handle attached to the upper part of the hard drive – push down until it unlocks and lift up the drive. Alternatively, the handle is held up with two screws, so you might want to take these off and slide out the handle easily out of its place.

Disassembly07 Disassembly07 Disassembly07

You can see at the photo that Apple has used Western Digital WD3200AAJS – 320 GB hard disk in its iMac aluminum.

Step 7

The hard drive side opposite to the plastic handle has two metal pins screwed in – holding the hard drive’s bottom side within the frame. Take (unscrew) these pins from the original hard drive and put them onto the new hard drive. Also, move the plastic handle from the old hard drive onto the new one (held up by two screws only).

Disassembly08 Disassembly08

Step 8

Use the backward logic to put back the new hard disk in place, bottom side with pins going into the frame first, then you snap it into the place by pushing the upper side handle into the frame (as show in photos)

Disassembly09 Disassembly09

Step 9

Attach the hard disk temperature sensor at approximately the same place where it was on the old hard drive. Use some glue if necessary (in my case there was enough adhesive left on the sensor, so I’ve just pushed it onto the drive and it stuck). Make sure you put the protective sponge on the top (as it was on the original hard drive).

Disassembly10 Disassembly10

Plug in the SATA and power connector to the drive (left-hand side of the drive in my photos).

Step 10

It’s time to put back the display — we’ll use the reverse logic – you need to plug in the power connector first (left hand side of the display) into the blue power board). Then place back the display firmly in its place – as shown in the photo. You might want a second pair of hands helping you with this step.

Disassembly11 Disassembly11

Then attach the two remaining display connectors at the left and right hand side at the bottom of the system motherboard.

Step 11

Put the aluminum front panel back into its place (starting with the bottom side first), making sure you connect the integrated iSight camera wire at the top before entirely closing up the frame.

Disassembly12 Disassembly12 Disassembly12

Then put all the screws you’ve taken out back into their places within the frame.

Update: Make sure the silver piece (the protective foam) around the RAM slot is tucked back in as putting back the front panel will be much smoother (thank you Vincent).

Step 12

Before putting the protective glass back onto the display, you might want to wipe it off and the display itself with a soft cloth (e.g. such are cloths used to clean reading glasses) in order to get rid of the dust particles that have fallen at the display in the mean time. Please take care of what kind of cloth you use – you don’t want to unnecessarily scratch your display!

Disassembly13 Disassembly13 Disassembly13

You are ready to put back the protective glass on top of your display. Use suction cups to handle the glass. Make sure you put it back carefully, as magnets will snap it into the place.

Step 13

Put back the protective bracket onto the bottom memory slot (upgrading your RAM is as easy as plugging in the new memory modules into the slots).

Disassembly14 Disassembly14

Upgrading the RAM (optional step for those upgrading the RAM as well)

Your iMac has two memory slots available.

Please note that 1 GB configurations shipped by Apple use a single memory slot (1 GB memory module inside). Configurations shipped with 2 GB memory by Apple use both memory slots (two 1 GB modules inside). Update: iMac 2009 shipped with 2 GB memory uses both memory slots, and iMac 2009 models shipped with 4 GB memoryย  also uses both slots available.

You can also verify the amount and type of memory installed in your iMac, including the verification of memory slots used if you click on the Apple logo (upper left corner), About This Mac, then click on More Info – a system profiler window will show up – click on the Memory menu on the left hand side and you’ll be able to see the amount of memory installed and memoy slots used.

System Profiler - assessing your iMac RAM upgrade options

Please note that iMac 2007 and 2008 models are upgradeable to 4GB max. memory, whereas iMac 2009 model only is upgradeable to 8GB max. memory

upgrade options

If you’ve purchased your iMac 2007 or 2008 from Apple with 1 GB memory, your upgrade options are as follows:

If you would like to move to 2 GB, then you just need to purchase an additional 1 GB memory module. If you would like to move to 3 GB, then just purchase an additional 2 GB module. If you’d like to upgrade to 4 GB RAM, you need to purchase two 2 GB memory modules (also meaning your existing 1 GB memory module goes out for sale on eBay ๐Ÿ™‚

if you’ve purchased your iMac 2007, 2008 and 2009 from Apple with 2 GB memory, your upgrade options are as follows:

If you would like to move to 3 GB, then you just need to purchase an additional 2 GB memory module (and one of your existing 1 GB modules goes out for sale on eBay). If you’d like to upgrade to 4 GB RAM you need to purchase two 2 GB memory modules (also meaning both of your existing 2 x 1GB memory modules go out for sale on eBay ๐Ÿ™‚

if you’ve purchased your iMac 2009 from Apple with 4 GB memory, your upgrade options are as follows:

If you would like to upgrade to 8 GB RAM you need to purchase two 4 GB memory modules (also meaning both of your existing 2 x 2GB memory modules go out for sale on eBay ๐Ÿ™‚

Choosing the appropriate modules

I’ve always had a great experience with Kingston (also having a lifetime warranty) – never came across a faulty module!

The appropriate memory modules going into iMac 20″ and iMac 24″ AL 2007 models are the following PC2-5300 modules (1 GB or 2 GB modules, DDR2, 667 MHz, SO-DIMM 200 pin, unbuffered):

RAM for iMac 2007 models
1 GB module
(667 Mhz)
2 GB module
(667 Mhz)
4 GB kit (2x2GB)
(667 Mhz)

iMac models from the early 2008 use faster 800 Mhz memory PC2-6400 (compared to 667 Mhz modules used in 2007 iMacs). Although the above suggested 667 Mhzย  modules will work in your 2008 iMacs, you should really look into getting the faster 800 Mhz memory – therefore the appropriate memory modules going into iMac 20″ and iMac 24″ AL 2008 models are the following (1 GB or 2 GB modules, DDR2, 800 MHz, SO-DIMM 200 pin, unbuffered):

RAM for iMac 2008 models
1 GB module
(800 Mhz)
2 GB module
(800 Mhz)
4 GB kit (2x2GB)
(800 Mhz)

iMac models from the early 2009 use newer DDR3 memory running at 1066 Mhz memory PC3-8500. Memory modules for iMac 2009 are not compatible with iMac 2007 or iMac 2008 models. iMac 2007 and 2008 models use DDR2 memory with 200 pin layout, whereas iMac 2009 models use DDR3 memory with 204 pin layout.

Therefore the appropriate memory modules going into iMac 20″ and iMac 24″ aluminum 2009 models are the following (2 GB or 4 GB modules, DDR3, 1066 MHz, SO-DIMM 204 pin, unbuffered):

RAM for iMac 2009 models
2 GB module
(1066 Mhz)
4 GB kit (2 x 2GB)
(1066 Mhz)
4 GB module
(1066 Mhz)
Please note that for iMacs 2007 and 2008 models you should not mix 667 Mhz and 800 Mhz modules – either your both memory modules should be 667 Mhz, or they should both be 800 Mhz, but do not combine 667 Mhz and 800 Mhz modules at the same time as you cannot have two memory modules working at different speeds simultaneously – your machine is likely to crash often or not boot at all!
You also want both modules from the same manufacturer with exactly the same specifications (specifically CAS – CL latency) – even if you install two memory modules from the same manufacturer with the correct Mhz speed, if they differ in CAS – CL latency your machine is likely act up! This is important to take into consideration if you already have an existing module and would like to add an additional module – make sure you get exactly the same module as the one you already have OR throw out the existing module (i.e. sell on eBay) and install both new modules of the same manufacturer and specification – in such case your iMac memory upgrade will be a 100% success!!!

Apple Welcomes you Back to School

Apple Online Store

Step 14 – install OS X

Finally, as you’ve just installed a blank hard drive, you need to install OS X operating system on your iMac. Please note that if you have Leopard upgrade DVD, you will need to install Tiger first, and then upgrade the system to Leopard.

Update: One of our readers mentions that you can install OS X from the upgrade DVD version without previously installing Tiger if you select Time Machine Backup, and then cancel it by going back – at that point the upgrade DVD will allow you to install OS X on a blank hard drive without prior OS installed.

On the other hand, if you have the full version of Leopard OS X, just go ahead and pop in the DVD, turn on your iMac and it will boot from the DVD – just follow the instructions on the screen to install the operating system.

Please note that once you are booted to OS X Leopard installation you will need to start the Disk Utility in order to partition and format your new 1TB, 1.5TB or 2TB hard drive.

You might also want to consult Leopard OS X installation guide from Apple.

Update: In order to transfer data from your old hard drive, you can place your old hard drive into USB external case, connect it to your iMac and start Utilitie, Migration Assistant. If you’ve used Time Machine for backups, you can also recover you data from Time Machine utilizing the Migration Assistant.

Once you install the OS X, in order to verify the hard disk installation you need to click on the Apple logo (upper left corner), About This Mac, More Info, then Serial-ATA (or simply start System Profiler application from the Utilities folder).

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In order to verify the amount of memory (RAM) installed, click on the Apple logo and select About This Mac.

About this Mac - 4 GB RAM